English is largely gender-neutral, so most professional categories do not distinguish between men and women. Furthermore, when you are referring to a particular person, there is no need to avoid gender-marked language.
||Chairwoman Vázquez apologised for her absence.
However, in situations where no sex should predominate – for example, when referring to the position rather than the person occupying it – always use the neutral version(s).
||A new chairperson must be elected before the Senate’s inaugural session.
||A new chair must be elected before the Senate’s inaugural session.
Many professions which previously had only gender-specific names now have a neutral form. For example, ombudsman
should become ombuds officer
Take care when using both gender-neutral titles and they
, or themselves
. In the example below, their absence
could refer to either the chairperson or other committee members.
||The chairperson apologised for their absence.
Best practice is to avoid this construction, as below.
||The chairperson apologised for not being able to attend.
Avoid the few gender-marked words in English (for example, fireman
, air hostess
) by using one of the many neutral synonyms available (fire fighter
, flight attendant